P v. Greed Power & Light Company


On June 1st at 4 a.m., following two days of heavy rain, a flood wiped out the housing development at Rancho Mudslide. The cause of the flood was the collapse of the dam five miles upstream from the development. The dam was built and owned by the Greed Power & Light Company. P, individually and on behalf of the class of residents of Rancho Mudslide, has sued Greed for $5 million in actual property damages and $50 million in punitive damages, alleging that Greed was negligent in building and maintaining the dam.

The following evidentiary problems came to light at the pretrial conference. How would you resolve each of them?

(1) P proposes to call Meyer, the president of the Rancho Mudslide Homeowner's Association, to testify that on May 25 he was at the dam site and that an engineer who had been sent to repair a sluice said to him, "This repair won't do much good if there is a heavy rain. The whole system is bad."

(2) P proposes to call Harry, the engineer's husband, to testify that his wife told him when she came home from work on May 25 that "the repairs she had made would not do any good if there was a heavy rain because the whole system was bad."

(3) P proposes to call Clark Kent, a reporter for the Mudslide Muckraker, to testify that, upon learning of the catastrophe, he called up Rockeyfellow, the president of Greed, at 5 a.m. on June 1 for a reaction. Kent will testify that upon hearing what had happened, Rockeyfellow said, "Oh my God, the sluice system must have failed. We were negligent in maintaining it."

(4) P proposes to call Stoole, a Greed employee, to testify that a report by the Rancid Corporation, an outside consulting firm, prepared for the company ten years ago when the decision to build the dam was being made, states, "The soil at the suggested dam site is too porous. In case of heavy rain, there would be danger of collapse and flooding of the land downstream."

(5) D proposes to call Harbinger, its vice-president for public relations, to testify that eight years ago he sent a letter to all owners of land in the then-proposed Rancho Mudslide development, informing them that the proposed development lay in the path of any water discharge from the dam and that a property owner would be foolish and negligent to build a residence in that location.

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